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Our vital farmed salmon sector is a global success story, generating £540 million in gross value added, and offering over 10,000 jobs, many of which are highly skilled and well paid, in some of our most remote communities.
I will continue to support the salmon industry following Brexit, but the United Kingdom Government’s lack of clarity on key issues such as market access and certification threatens that vital sector, and damages investor confidence. Extra costs, risks and bureaucracy directly result from the UK Government’s obduracy. It must heed the warning from the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, which has highlighted the huge unnecessary burdens that will result from the Brexit deal being pursued.
Last week, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation warned that, without a close relationship and tariff-free trade with the European Union, the industry could see £9 million lost in costs and delays to the departure of fresh fish. Does the cabinet secretary agree that trade barriers with our biggest trading partner will damage the sector and businesses, and put jobs at risk in the Highlands and Islands?
Yes, I very much agree with the way that David Stewart has set out the position.
The extra costs would result from the imposition of export health certificates and other bureaucracy. Let us be clear: at the moment, there is no need for them at all; there would be no need for them if the UK Government agreed dynamic alignment with the EU. It could remove the need for them; however, it has refused.
On Monday, I asked George Eustice whether the UK Government would pick up the tab for the extra £9 million, or perhaps more, that the trade body has estimated. Mr Eustice said that that would be a business cost. Business must pay that cost, which results directly from the policies pursued by the UK Government. Here we have the first Boris Brexit bill, which the industry will have to pay directly because of the UK Government’s Brexit policies.